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  6. How long should my firm retain archived conveyancing files?

How long should my firm retain archived conveyancing files?

My firm is moving to smaller premises and we need to reduce the number of files stored in the basement. Is there any guidance setting out how long we need to retain archived conveyancing files in storage?

There is no specific Law Society guidance on how long a conveyancing file should be retained in storage. 

You will need to decide how long you wish to store closed files taking into account relevant statutory provisions such as limitation periods, VAT provisions, the Money Laundering Regulations and also any lender requirements.

The UK Finance Mortgage Lenders' Handbook s14 states:

Your Mortgage File

S14.3.1 For evidential purposes you must keep your file for at least six years from the date of the mortgage before destroying it. You should retain on file those documents as specified in these instructions, and/or our individual instructions, and any other documents which a reasonably competent solicitor/conveyancer would keep.

Microfiching, data imaging or material held electronically constitutes suitable compliance with this requirement. It is the practice of some fraudsters to demand the conveyancing file on completion in order to destroy evidence that may later be used against them. It is important to retain these documents to protect our interests.  

In your client care letter, you should advise the client how long you will retain the file and outline what will happen to the file after that time.

You should also advise the client of any costs relating to any of the following:

a) storage
b) retrieval
c) additional copies of papers requested by the client.

If you intend to store documents in an electronic format, you should first consider whether the absence of paper documents might be detrimental to the client's interests before you agree such storage methods with your client.

You should also consider any file retention requirements of your professional indemnity insurers when assessing the appropriate length of time to retain files.

For further information, please see the Law Society's practice note on client care information.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

Have you got a practice question? Call the Practice Advice Service on 020 7320 5675 or email practiceadvice@lawsociety.org.uk

The Practice Advice Service is staffed Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

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